We Say Sorry in 2013.
The past Prime Minister Julia Gillard has now issued a moving apopogy on behalf of the Federal Government to mothers whose babies were forcibly removed from them.
Relinquishing mothers also deserve an apology.
According to ALAS – Adoption Loss Adult Support, there are over 250,000 white mothers who lost their babies to forcible removal at birth by the same past illegal adoption practices as Aboriginal mothers. Some mothers face the devastating circumstances of having children taken, or being put under intolerable pressure to relinquish their children. These are the mothers of the ”white stolen generations”, so-called to distinguish them from the mothers of the Aboriginal stolen generations, though their suffering is shared. Up to 1982, newborn babies of young, unmarried women were forcibly removed from them for adoption.
An apology from the Federal Government – and to a lesser extent the States – is crucial to these women. At Federal level, a Senate inquiry is under way, to report in April. It took more than a decade for a parliamentary apology to the Aboriginal stolen generations to occur.
Past West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, delivered a parliamentary apology on behalf of State institutions involved in the aggressive adoption practices and government policies that were unsupportive of pregnant, unmarried women. There was no political fallout, no avalanche of compensation claims, only joy and healing for the women whose babies were taken.
Some mothers of the ”white stolen generations” are dead. Others are dying. Many live in despair, still longing for the chance to hold their baby, to see its face, to rewrite their sad history.
They deserve parliamentary apologies – without delay.
Reported by Liz Hannan, Sydney Morning Herald.
Maggie Millar has more information on this issue and can be contacted at www.maggiemillar.com. There are a number of books on the subject including: “Living Mistakes” by Kate Inglis, Allen and Unwin, 1984. Kate is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Cole, a PhD student at UWS, has researched widely and campaigned for an apology. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
March 2012 – The Senate Commission Report into Forced Adoption Practices is underway and taking evidence from single mothers who were forced to sign adopton forms after birth under the influence of sedative drugs and never allowed to see or hold their newborn babies. The legal profession now claims this as illegal but up to the 1960s the babies were immediately put up for adoption and their original birth certificates sealed forever. There were coercive practices by hospital staff and social workers who whisked away babies to the nursery, psychiatrists now descibing this as a conspiracy by all involved. These single mothers have suffered extensive trauma and loss over many years and are seeking an apology from Federal and State Governments.
These practices were widespread in all States due to the stigma of illegitimacy. Before the 1960s the regulation of the adoption industry was not uniform until the Federal Government formed the Model Adoption Act stating that “Consent to adoption could only be given by a woman in a fit condition and not signing under duress”. Mothers were then given at least three days to sign consent and then had 30 days to change their minds. These discriminatory attitudes lingered until 1973, when the supporting mothers benefit was extended to single mothers.